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Volkswagen's Tiguan eHybrid offers a proven PHEV package, thinks Jonathan Crouch
The Tiguan eHybrid has been a long time in coming. Volkswagen was talking about a PHEV plug-in version of its mid-sized SUV even before the current second generation Tiguan was first launched in 2016 and showed a Tiguan GTE prototype to gauge public reaction. This concept car had a clever roof-mounted solar module that potentially could add around 300 further miles to the all-electric range figure - which we were eager to see. Sadly, that technology hasn't (yet) made it through to production. And probably wouldn't be much use in drizzly Blighty anyway. What we do have though in this finished Tiguan eHybrid model is plenty of cutting-edge technology, even though the powertrain used here isn't that much different from the one first introduced in a Golf GTE back in 2014. Can it propel this PHEV crossover to the top of the class? Let's see.
This plug-in petrol/electric engine is the same one that features in GTE versions of the Golf and the Passat, which means that despite all the new-tech fanfare, it's based around mechanicals that the brand has no longer uses in its conventional models - a 1.4 TSI petrol engine and a DSG auto gearbox with only 6-speeds. The engineers have in recent times though, given this plug-in package a bigger 10.4kWh battery which powers an 85kW electric motor, which is why this Tiguan eHybrid's full-electric driving range when fully charged is rated at a class-competitive 28 miles. Which you won't get anywhere near if you ever approach the eHybrid model's theoretical all-electric top speed of 80mph. This VW Group PHEV powertrain does as usual have to be paired with front wheel drive. And, as ever, various selectable settings govern the way you can use it. The car always starts off in fully-electrified 'E-Mode', before switching to a 'Hybrid' mode that sees the electric motor and the combustion engine combining together. As part of this setting, you've also a 'Battery Hold' option that will save battery charge until later in your trip; and a 'Battery Charge' setting (in which the battery will be charged as you drive by the TSI engine). There's also a press-on engine-only 'GTE' mode (even though this car isn't badged 'GTE'), this setting enabling a potential 62mph sprint time of 7.5s en route to 127mph. These sprightly figures reflect a total combined system output of 245PS, more than enough to offset the PHEV battery's 135kg weight penalty.
Unless you spot the extra charging flap or the distinct badging, you're unlikely to notice that this eHybrid variant is different from any other Tiguan. This PHEV variant only comes with the conventional five-seat body style and of course features all the most recent Tiguan visual updates. Which means you get a wide grille with an extra lower chrome strip that forges a visual link between the Tiguan and pricier Volkswagen SUVs such as the larger Touareg and the huge Atlas Cross Sport model sold in North America. The standard full-LED headlights which flank this appendage can feature the company's latest IQ.Light matrix technology, which gives you 24 LEDs in each module. At the wheel, there's a premium-style feel that you just don't get from most competing volume brand mid-sized PHEV crossovers. You sit quite commandingly and the build quality and general ergonomics are difficult to fault. There's a 10.25-inch instrument display screen and a central 'Discover' infotainment display that is 8-inches in size as standard, but which can be upgraded to 9.2-inches on request. Both the instrument binnacle screen and the central monitor have various E-specific read-outs. Two people can sit comfortably in the rear - but three would be tight. Out back, boot space falls by 137-litres because of the need to place the PHEV system's battery beneath the cargo area floor. That means a 437-litre boot capacity - though you can extend that via a standard ski hatch - or of course by folding the 40:20:40-split-rear bench.
Tiguan eHybrid pricing started at just over £36,000 at the time of this test in early 2022 - about £2,500 more than the price of an equivalent 2.0 TDI diesel variant. That's premium territory for a mid-sized SUV, but you do at least get decent equipment levels for that. There's a choice of three trim levels - 'Life', 'Elegance' and 'R-Line'. All versions get Adaptive Cruise Control, all-round parking sensors, navigation and 3-Zone Climate Control. Volkswagen's Digital Cockpit Pro' 10.25-inch high resolution TFT dash display screen also features as standard. Mid-range 'Elegance' trim gets you Volkswagen's 'IQ.Light' LED matrix headlight system. And a heated steering wheel, plus a 30-colour ambient lighting cabin set-up. A suite of systems to assist the driver are also standard-fit on the 'Elegance' model, including a rear-view camera, Side Assist, rear traffic alert, and Predictive Cruise Control, which uses road sign recognition and navigation data to automatically alter the preset speed to the legal limit, as well as safely, pre-emptively slowing for bends, roundabouts and junctions. Top 'R-Line' trim brings a sportier focus for the Tiguan, and adds styling features to reflect this across the exterior and interior, including a roof spoiler, exclusive front and rear bumpers and wheel arch extensions housing 20-inch 'Misano Black' alloy wheels. For the inside, there's black roof lining and R-Line badging across the cabin.
The 28 mile all-electric range served up here could mean that with a typical commute, a Tiguan eHybrid owner might only need to actually visit a fuel station every month or two. Depending on the power source, charging takes place with 2.3 or 3.6 kW alternating current (AC). When supplied with 230 volts at 2.3 kW via the normal domestic grid, the battery can be fully charged in five hours from empty. This is reduced to three hours and 40 minutes using a 3.6 kW wall box or public charger. As for the WLTP-rated efficiency figures, well the base 'Life'-spec variant manages 178.4mpg on the combined cycle and 36g/km of CO2 - which means a BiK rating of just 11%. For this 'Elegance' version, it's 151.1mpg, 42g/km and 13%; and for top 'R-Line'-spec, it's 165.1mpg, 39g/km and 11%. For reference, a comparable 2.0 TDI 150PS Tiguan model is rated at 37%. Of course, in the real world, a Tiguan eHybrid won't deliver readings anything like these; expect around 55mpg in regular use, which by our calculations would be slightly better than you'd get from the TDI unit. A slight downside with the eHybrid variant lies with the fact that the battery's positioning under the boot floor necessitates a reduction in fuel tank size, but even so, with a fully-charged battery and a full tank of fuel, a range of over 620 miles ought to be possible - so, for example, you could travel from London to Paris and back without refuelling. Which sounds promising.
It's puzzling why it took Volkswagen so long to bring us a PHEV version of this Tiguan, given that the technology it uses has been around in a Golf for well over half a decade. This powertrain will, after all make so much sense to the sensible conservative folk who tend to like this uber-sensible Wolfsburg mid-sized SUV. A Tiguan eHybrid can't offer you the longest all-electric driving range in the segment, but it does feel classier inside than rival PHEV versions of direct competitors like the Ford Kuga, the Peugeot 3008, the Citroen C5 Aircross and the Vauxhall Grandland. Yes, you could get an even smarter cabin feel by opting for a mechanically very similar Audi Q3 45 TFSIe, but that would cost a great deal more. For quite a few crossover customers tempted by the PHEV concept, what's served up here will be more than sufficient for their needs. It's a very complete package.
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